Rusu [Abstract]

Hermeneutics of reason: the principle of common rationality as premise of understanding the Other(s) [Full text]

Mihai Rusu  [1]

AbstractThe central argument defended in this paper is made up of two interconnected statements: i) that a minimally defined rationality is an anthropological constant, being shared by all conceivable human cultures; and ii) that this “commonality of reason” constitutes the basis on which inter-cultural understanding is possible. In proving the first thesis (the universality of reason), the paper contrasts Western thought, epitomized in scientific reason, with non-Western thinking patterns, expressed by ethno-sciences, magic rituals, and other knowledge practices. The conclusion drawn from this comparison is that both modern scientific reason and non-literate peoples thought patterns are two “cognitive modes” sharing a strong structural similarity. Building on some loci classici of anthropological literature written by Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard, and Lévi-Strauss (among others), the paper argues that although modern Western science and indigenous knowledge(s) share a common rational denominator, the two cognitive modes are nonetheless hierarchical, the former being epistemically superior to the latter thanks to its unique self-correcting methodology. The paper ends by arguing the case for the possibility of understanding the Other(s) by way of reason, a possibility grounded on the commonality of reason between cultures.

Keywords: Rationality, ethno-science, inter-cultural hermeneutics, cognitive anthropology

[1] Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, Babeș Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania,